Title 3 – TOK Essay May 2017 KQ 1 : Why do we need to judge the historical events by standards of their time?


Cultural perspective helps us understand why certain events and actions were considered in that particular way. This “ Relativism “ has enabled the modern society to have an objective peek into the historical past and develop perspective that is important to understanding and knowing the underpinnings of history , politics and psychology of historical events.

“Because people have different points of view, because people have different experiences, they come to mean slightly different things by their words, to develop slightly different principles of reason, to develop slightly different pictures of reality. Multiply this over a lifetime, and over seven billion people, and you have the recipe for relativism.”


Humans describing other humans risk imposing their own ideas and sensibilities on other, considering that people in the past lived in the culture somewhat different than the present ones. Describing the concepts in context of their own time might be inaccurate- it may be almost describing ourselves in different circumstances.

Relativism essentially posits that the modern society embrace the notion that there is no ultimate “right” or “wrong” , withdrawing itself from making judgements on the historical events and societies. Thus regardless of the Reasons , we cannot apply modern standards of judgements on the historical events.

RLS ; For example , “ Cannibalism has been said to test the bounds of cultural relativism as it challenges anthropologists “to define what is or is not beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior but Cannibalism has been occasionally practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine, including in modern times. Famous examples include the ill-fated Westward expedition of the Donner Party (1846-7) and, more recently, the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 (1972), after which some survivors ate the bodies of dead passengers. “

Relativism is the open-eyed recognition that knowledge and truth are empirically bound, and hence contingent and subject to change, not the uncritical acceptance of any proposition, no matter how poorly formed and supported.